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Napa blaze narrowly misses vineyards

Vineyards in California’s Napa Valley narrowly escaped incineration on Friday as roughly 400 acres of land on hills above Yountville were consumed in a spectacular wild fire.

The area of the Yountville HIlls, just behind the Domaine Chandon estate and the Veterans Home of California, began to burn at 8am due to dry conditions and high winds, which brought down power lines overnight.

Local fire crews used converted DC10 bombers to douse areas adjacent to the blaze with fire retardant gel. Strong winds gusting to 50 mph fanned the fire, but over 500 firefighters on the ground managed to contain 50% of the blaze by midnight on Friday. It was finally extinguished on Sunday.

Wildfires in the Napa Valley area are in fact comparatively rare. The last serious blaze decimated vineyards on hills above the Silverado Trail more than a decade ago.

In the middle of a dry Indian summer, and otherwise perfect harvest conditions, local winemakers remained remarkably relaxed about potential danger to their crop.

‘The fire crews know what they’re doing,’ one source told decanter.com, ‘it was burning up on the hillside – most vineyards are on the valley floor and they’d never let the fire get this far.’

The fire burned in a triangular area bordered by Dry Creek Road, Oak Knoll Avenue and State Highway 29. An air quality health warning was issued by the health department.

Containing the fire is estimated to have cost US$3.15m.

Written by Penny Boothman in Napa

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